Econometrica: Sep 2013, Volume 81, Issue 5
Revolt on the Nile: Economic Shocks, Religion, and Political Power
Eric ChaneyUsing centuries of Nile flood data, I document that during deviant Nile floods, Egypt's highest‐ranking religious authority was less likely to be replaced and relative allocations to religious structures increased. These findings are consistent with historical evidence that Nile shocks increased this authority's political influence by raising the probability he could coordinate a revolt. I find that the available data provide support for this interpretation and weigh against some of the most plausible alternatives. For example, I show that while Nile shocks increased historical references to social unrest, deviant floods did not increase a proxy for popular religiosity. Together, the results suggest an increase in the political power of religious leaders during periods of economic downturn.
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